A few months down the road, I am happy to report that it was definitely the right decision to abandon the first attempt at a shell for 19th C Disability and use Omeka as the content management system for the site. Here are a few things I’m really loving about Omeka:
1) Design: When I started designing the original shell for the site using Dreamweaver, my idea of “design” was to pick colours the same way I would pick say, a new paint colour for my living room or a colour scheme for a bridal party. Turns out having a penchant for teal does not a great web designer make! Omeka, on the other hand, has amazing design right out of the box. I’m using the “Berlin” theme right now, and couldn’t be happier with the clean look and feel.
2) Universal Design: Omeka is designed with accessibility in mind, again right out of the box. For example, there are no drop down menus, which can be hard on those with low vision or mobility issues.
3) Robust Metadata: When you’re designing a scholarly resource, the last thing you want to do is slap all sorts of information up on the internet without any underlying structure. Omeka organizes the metadata for each item you put in your database using the Dublin Core Fields, a standardized set of terms to describe resources (i.e. date, creator, description etc.).
4) Flexible Database: Did I mention how great the database in Omeka is? I am so glad I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel and attempt to program a php database myself. Omeka’s database is very flexible; with a little tweaking, you can organize items in your database (in this case, primary sources in 19th C: Disability) any way you like: thematically, chronologically, geographically, by author… or, all of the above.
5) the Forums: I am comfortable with the basics of HTML and CSS (and you could be too, in an afternoon, I promise) but I’m not there yet with php. With the help of the lovely folks running the forums at Omeka, I was able to modify the php files on my site to get the exact look and feel I wanted.
6) It’s free! How amazing is that?